Exercise Siil 2018 is unfolding in Estonia these days, and it is the largest military exercise since the country regained independence in 1991. More than 15,000 troops take part including 2,000 allied troops from 15 countries. Previously the record was held by Siil 2015 where 13,000 troops participated.
The international units in the exercise come from U.K., U.S., Denmark, Germany, Poland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Georgia, Ukraine, and Ireland.
Beginning on May 2 and lasting through May 14 the exercise takes place in three stages. On May 2-4 the units will form and prepare for battle. Estonia is mobilizing reserves for the exercise so there is a bit of work to do before their units are ready. During the second phase on May 5-7 the 1st and 2nd Brigades will train together with the volunteers from the Estonian Defense League Kaitseliit (EDL). This time will also be used to prepare minefields and to deploy anti-tank weapons.
The last stage on May 8-12 will be a bigger war scenario where the 2nd Brigade and the EDL forces will defend Estonia against an adversary played by 1st Brigade and the NATO forces from the Enhanced Forward Presence battle group. This part of the exercise also involves military maneuvers in Northern Latvia.
Siil literally means hedgehog in Estonian. Supposedly the hedgehog symbolizes a small animal which can offer substantial resistance if threatened. Personally, I mostly think of them as cute semi-domestic animals that are frequently run over by cars at night. I would have expected the military planners to come up with something more fearsome. The Estonian nature also features bears, wolves, and lynx, so there are several impressive animals to choose from. Heck, even “tick” would have made for a more terrifying name than hedgehog.
The exercise focuses on the land component of territorial defense, but some 20 aircraft also take part. In addition to military troops, there is participation from the police, the Border Guard, and the Rescue Board.
More than 30 observers from foreign countries and organizations will monitor the exercise, including from Russia and Belarus.